I really struggled with this one – I wanted to say the running backs and talk about Jesse Callier and Deonte Cooper’s recovery, but I really don’t think we’ll know anything about them until August and then it will be appropriate to dedicate an entire post to those two guys and the potential they bring to the backfield.
No, the second most important thing that I am going to look at during the spring game is the offensive line. Last year it was a huge point of contention early on, mainly due to injuries and constant shuffling of personnel that led to glaring inconsistencies in the overall play of the unit. To be fair, once they got their legs under them, the same starting group was in place for the second half of the season. It was improved, but there were still struggles.
Colin Tanigawa and Erik Kohler, both of whom were projected starters, missed most or all of the year due to injuries. This lead to younger and less experienced players being thrust into starting roles, but it got these guys playing time very early in their careers. This means that (in theory, at least) guys who may not have been ready for primetime last year now have live game experience should they be called on again. Additionally, guys who redshirted last year like Jake Eldrenkamp are now going to be available to add even more depth to the rotation.
So, if you follow conventional wisdom, the Huskies should have a deep and experienced rotation at offensive line this year. But if we look deeper, we notice some things.
- We’re missing two BIG names from that rotation – namely Zach Banner and Josh Garnett. Those two guys were two of the top OL recruits in the country two years ago, and UW whiffed on both of them. Banner went to USC and Garnett went to Stanford. By missing out on those two, it left a massive hole in the “fence” that Coach Sark wanted to build around the state of Washington. It does us no good to play the “what if” game, and what’s done is done, but losing those two studs hurt.
- A direct result of the previous point, if you look at the depth chart of offensive linemen, you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody who stirs the echoes of great UW linemen of the past. There is no man-child waiting in the wings that is going to be a cornerstone to the line like Olin Kruetz or Lincoln Kennedy. Not to say that a young player like Shane Brostek can’t develop into that type of player, but right now the depth chart just looks like a bunch of average guys.
I want to see how they have developed. Erik Kohler was a prize three years ago when he committed, but so was Nick Montana. Can they put together a unit that will keep Keith Price upright, and not have him running for his life? Can they give Bishop Sankey bigger holes to run through so he isn’t doing it all himself? Or are we going to spend most of 2013 looking longingly at the USC and Stanford offensive line depth chart and wondering, “what if?”